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South Florida Man Wanted for 66 Counts of Fraud, Grand Theft Is in Custody after Three Years on Lam


TALLAHASSEE – For nearly three years, former South Florida resident Raul Escariz outran the law and 66 counts of insurance fraud and grand theft. But the law caught up with him earlier this month and the 40-year-old fugitive is now in a Las Vegas jail with bond set at more than $1.3 million, State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher announced today.

Escariz was indicted in April 1998 on 33 counts of insurance fraud and 33 counts of grand theft for allegedly submitting more than $795,000 worth of fake medical claims, using phony doctors' names, to dozens of insurance companies. He collected nearly $73,000 in insurance payments at mail boxes he rented in Naples, Jupiter and Tequesta.

A fugitive since May 5, 1998, Escariz was arrested on April 7 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Fugitive Task Force with the assistance of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. When taken into custody, Escariz had a fraudulent Nevada driver's license as well as other identification in the name of Jose Alberto Ortiz. The Department of Insurance is seeking to have Escariz extradited to Florida.

"This is one of our longest-sought subjects," Gallagher said. "Our investigators dogged the case and him, and it paid off."

Escariz was originally arrested April 29,1998, and booked in to the Miami-Dade County Jail on a bond of $1.32 million. He later was transferred to the Palm Beach County Jail and his bond was reduced in error to $65,000. Through a bail bondsman, Escariz posted the bond and was released.

At an emergency hearing seeking reinstatement of the $1.32 million bond, Escariz did not show up and his attorney was present only by telephone. Escariz's attorney was ordered to have his client surrender by the end of the day. Escariz never showed up.

Department of Insurance fraud investigators said they had heard over the past 3 years that Escariz was seen in Costa Rica and Mexico. But last year, tips started coming in that he was living in Las Vegas with a girlfriend.

Other fugitives still sought by state fraud investigators include a father and his two sons, who are accused of fabricating more than $10 million worth of health insurance claims, and a woman who scammed a life insurance company for $500,000 by lying about the death of her husband, who was caught and arrested.

The Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or any possible fraud scheme should call the Department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. Se ofrece una recompensa de hasta $25,000 a cambio de información que conduzca a una condena en casos de fraude de seguros.